Barí - Settlements

The traditional Barí were divided into local groups of fifty (plus or minus twenty) people, each of which had a territory of 100 to 1,000 square kilometers in which it maintained two to five communal longhouses, distanced one from another by half a day's walk or more. Typically, at least one of these houses was convenient to the best fishing spots in the major river of the territory, with others near lesser fishing spots on smaller rivers, and still others back from watercourses, near good hunting grounds. Houses were located in the center of circular to oval fields, 0.3 to 0.5 hectares in size, of manioc and other crops. The local group tended to cycle around the longhouses in accord with the seasons—at the major river house in the dry season, when fishing was best, and at the upland house(s) at the height of the rainy season, when reliance on hunting was heaviest. Longhouses of unshaped trunks, palm-wood slats, and Geonoma palm-leaf thatch, were 20 to 25 meters long by 10 to 15 meters wide by 8 to 12 meters high at the ridge pole. It took a local group about a month to build one, and a house lasted, with several rethatchings, for about ten years.

Functionally, the interior of the longhouse was divided into two areas: an outer ring where hammocks were slung and most indoor activities took place and a central hearth gallery where people cooked. Each hearth corresponded to an adjacent cluster of hammocks in the outer ring. The longhouse has disappeared in Venezuela, where the Barí now live in single-family dwellings of the kind used by local criollo peasants. There are three mission villages of such houses with populations of over 200 in Venezuela, and another in Columbia. Colombia also has a mission settlement with a traditional longhouse as well as individual houses and three isolated longhouses.

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